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One family with a goal and a dream
Ever since December, Quinnipiac soccer player Aldin Beslagic has been wondering how he would pay for his final year in school. Last Thursday, Aldin was relieved to find out there is still hope for his future. Throughout his life, Beslagic has had to rely on hope more than he may have wanted. Life, freedom and opportunity were not guaranteed to him or his family when they were forced from Bosnia and became refugees in 1992.
Originally, Beslagic was informed that his scholarship would be cut after this past season, so he decided to quit the team with one year of eligibility remaining. He and head coach Sam Carrington did not see eye-to-eye on this matter and that led to a strain in their relationship.
“He broke my trust,” Beslagic said. “Once someone breaks that, there is no going back.”
Beslagic started just two games his sophomore year before suffering a season-ending stress fracture. With no other choice, he red-shirted a year to save a year of his eligibility.
“I had to sit out the whole season,” Beslagic said. “I couldn’t walk, man. I couldn’t step on my foot. I had to wear a boot for like two months.”
The entire rehabilitation process took roughly two and a half months before Beslagic could start running again. Once he was healthy, he focused his attention on his junior year.
Now playing defense full time, Beslagic started to flourish. He played in 16 games, totaling two goals on just seven shots. His four points (two goals, two assists) were good enough to tie him for third on the team.
“He was tremendous. I think that was his breakout year,” Carrington said. “I think that was the year that he enjoyed the most because he played the whole year. He was healthy, and he really contributed to the team.”
“Once he found his position, he definitely did stand out on the team,” teammate Joe Caternor said.
Off the field, Aldin was enjoying his life at Quinnipiac. “I think it was one of the best years I’ve had,” Beslagic said. “I was living in the Hill, I had great roommates. Every weekend we had parties. I had a good time.”
Going into his senior year, Beslagic had two years of eligibility left, which would allow him to complete his double-major undergraduate program, international business and finance, and get his Master’s in business administration.
This plan seemed great, until the defenseman was informed after last season that he would not get his scholarship.
“Coming here, I was promised so many things,” Beslagic said. “If I could change one thing, I would put it all (everything he had been promised) in writing,” Beslagic said.
The coach that originally recruited Beslagic had promised the young man a scholarship that would cover him through grad school, among other things. These promises began to fall through and continued for the duration of his career. Now, the opportunity to play soccer at the collegiate level was being taken away.
“I was devastated. It ruined my whole semester,” Beslagic said. “Nobody saw how I was affected by it. Inside I was dying, but on the outside I was happy. It took me a couple months to get over it. It was a horrible feeling.”
To make up for the loss in money, Beslagic had to take on additional jobs to pay for school. He worked at the health center as a work study and as a part time translator in the Connecticut court system . He also held a job at a restaurant in Rocky Hill.
In turn, Beslagic’s production on the field suffered. Even though he started 18 games, he notched just one assist and no goals. However, the stats can be misleading as defenders are not known for their scoring prowess. Simply put, the athlete was stretched too thin.
“Why would I give 100 percent? It’s not worth it,” Beslagic said. “I had to support myself. I had three jobs, was taking six classes and had to go to practice. I can’t give 100 percent to all of them. I was so exhausted. There was no time for sleep.”
Although his soccer career did not unfold the way he had hoped or expected, Beslagic does not let that deter him. Aldin plans to return to Quinnipiac next year to earn his MBA and eventually wants to go back to school for his Ph.D. He would like to possibly become a professor at some point in the business field. Aldin would bring first-hand experience in the business side of sports.
Outside of school, Beslagic looks forward to starting a family. He is not sure where he wants to settle in the United States and would like to move around to see different areas before making that decision. Aldin plans to remain involved with soccer, whether he is playing in indoor men’s leagues, coaching or simply as a fan.
Although everything at Quinnipiac did not pan out the way Beslagic expected, he does not let it influence his opinion of the school or his time here.
“It went overboard. It (college) broke my expectations,” Beslagic said. “I’m really satisfied. I’m glad I came here. It was the best experience of my life.”
If Aldin is able to obtain the scholarship, his experience will only get better.
“For me, to bring back a fifth-year player, and give him scholarship money while he is going to sit on the bench, it is not justifiable,” Carrington said.
If Beslagic is able to obtain the scholarship, he will work somewhere in the athletic department as a graduate assistant. But his soccer career at Quinnipiac is officially over.
Aldin’s career at Quinnipiac was not supposed to end this way in his eyes, but the senior knows that it was not always like this. When he first arrived on campus, the young man was accepted unlike any other he had met in the United States.
“Everybody comes from a different place,” Beslagic said. “It’s a diversified place. Nobody discriminates if you come from a different country.”
This immediate acceptance certainly made the transition to college easier for Beslagic than the change to high school. Instead of being welcomed with taunts and physical threats, which was the case at Rocky Hill High School, Aldin was greeted with smiles and handshakes.
“I got lucky; I got good roommates,” Beslagic said. “I am still friends with them.”
However, nothing could prepare him for the responsibilities that would come with playing a sport. “At first it was really hard,” Beslagic said. “I was so tired getting up at 8 a.m. for classes, and then after classes you go to practice and after practice you have to study. And if you don’t study and get good grades, you can’t play.”
“I was going to bed after midnight every night,” Beslagic said. “I got around five or six hours of sleep.”
Coming from Europe, Beslagic said he was used to the way people help each other and focus on group rather than individualistic achievements. Aldin added that life proceeds at a slower pace and is a mirror opposite of our culture.
Though the tight schedule proved to be quite difficult, Beslagic found a way to get everything done. The freshman recorded a 3.4 GPA and even made an early impression on the soccer field.
Beslagic earned playing time his freshman year, appearing in eight games, while starting three of them. Despite the limited playing time, he recorded two points (one goal, one assist) and gained valuable experience. However, the freshman was feeling the pains of transitioning to the college game.
“I didn’t stand out or anything, I was too shy. I was in a shell,” Beslagic said. “In high school, I was walking over the whole field. Nobody would stop me,” Beslagic said. “In college, they knock you down from the back, in the front, they punch you. They do whatever it takes to stop you.” Beslagic says this change in style of play is due to the fact that the game is much faster and played with so much more tenacity. “You don’t hold on to the ball too long,” Beslagic said. “As soon as you get it, you pass it. It is almost like professional (soccer).”
After struggling through the early stages of his freshman year, Beslagic settled in and began to feel comfortable in his surroundings. Little did he know that life was about to hand him a red card.
In between his freshman and sophomore years, Quinnipiac decided that its current coach was not performing at the level they expected. Vic Santos had led the team to a disappointing 7-9-1 season (4-5-1 NEC) in 2001, his second-consecutive losing season. This was not good enough, so the school fired Santos and brought in former St. Francis (NY) Coach Sam Carrington.
The new coach loved Beslagic’s height (6’6″) and wanted to get him on the field at all costs. However, Carrington had a different idea of what position Aldin should play. Beslagic had become accustomed to being a mid-fielder, but Carrington moved him to defense.
“I wanted him to play so badly because of his size,” Carrington said. “I put him in the back (defense) because right away in the back he could win a lot of air balls.”
Even though he was unaccustomed to playing defense, the move did not bother Aldin. “It was alright,” Beslagic said. “It fit me better, that position, because I’m aggressive and I hit people. As a defenseman, you do that.”
All of a sudden, Beslagic needed to learn a new position and system while trying to impress a coach who had not recruited him. Playing under these circumstances, Beslagic had to do everything he could to make it onto the field, including playing through injuries.
“I had shin splints and I kept playing on them,” Beslagic said. “I did not want to stop, (I was) trying to impress my coach. I kept playing and pushing until I broke my shin.”